How much money do you need to be happy?
According to a study performed by Princeton economists, the ideal income for personal satisfaction is $75,000.
Of course, other studies have shown that people consistently believe that they would be happier if they earned 20% more than their current salary. So in an ideal world, the person earning $40,000 would earn $50,o00, the person earning $60,000 would earn $72,000, etc.
Regardless of your ideal income, one thing is certain – most people believe they could solve their money problems and be happier if they just had more money. Life would be easier, the grass greener, the roses sweeter smelling, and the dishes would wash themselves.
Unfortunately, this belief can be misleading because many people mistakenly blame their income for their money problems. Believing more money would solve financial problems also fails to account for lifestyle inflation.
How long would it take before that 20% increase in your income became ingrained into your lifestyle? And when it did, would you again feel the need to increase your income by 20% in order to feel happy or secure?
Why Do You Want More Money?
While having more money can help you achieve a little more happiness (especially if you make less than $75,000 a year), the reality is that more money isn’t going to better your financial situation, or improve your level of happiness, if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Indeed, if you don’t have a plan for your money, you can end up in financial trouble no matter how much you make each year.
Pinpoint Your Money Motivations
Rather than just thinking that more money would be nice, think about why you want more money.
You need to figure out your motivations. For some people, this relatively easy. If you are having a hard time making ends meet, you probably want more money so that you can pay the bills. If you are drowning in debt, more money can help you pay it off.
Money represents security and financial freedom in these cases. Chances are that when you do get more money, you know exactly where it should go. It goes toward paying down your obligations and toward paying the bills.
Things get a little fuzzier when you have more financial freedom. When you have moved beyond day-to-day survival mode, it becomes a little harder to pinpoint your money motivations. Honestly evaluate the situation. Do you want more money so that you can save more for your future retirement? Do you want more money so you can buy the material status symbols that our society often associates with wealth?
Look at what you’re interested in so that you can figure out what you will actually do with the money. Creating a plan for your money is important if you want to avoid the pitfalls that come with poor financial management.
More Money Does Not Solve All Money Problems
More money is not the solution. It can be a solution. But it is not the solution. Too many people look at having more money as a panacea, a cure-all for whatever financial problem(s) they may have. But that is a dangerous way of thinking because it makes money the entire solution when it is only part of the equation.
To be clear, having more money can be helpful. But it doesn’t take much to realize that having more money won’t solve all of life’s financial problems. Even becoming wealthy isn’t the answer to life’s money problems.
Newspaper archives are full of stories of lottery winners who were bankrupt within a few years. Many lottery winners claim their lives were worse after they won the lottery.
Take a look at the hundreds of famous athletes, musicians, and movie stars have let millions of dollars slip through their fingers and later filed bankruptcy or otherwise suffered financial ruin. Even the self-proclaimed billionaire Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy. What went wrong?
How Do You Solve Money Problems?
Many people like to zero in on dollars and cents, but there is more to the story than your salary. I will almost go so far as to say that your salary doesn’t matter. It does, but probably not as much as you think.
Regardless of how much money you earn, the only way to become financially stable is to spend less than you earn, or as I like to say, to earn more than you spend. There is no other way to financial health. You can’t be financially stable when everything that comes in immediately goes out the door, and you certainly can’t become financially stable when your obligations outpace your income.
Focus on how you manage your money, not how much you earn.
Increasing your income is a step in the right direction, and I recommend it to anyone seeking to improve his or her financial situation. But even millionaires need to budget. Increasing your income alone can’t solve your money problems; you need to change your actions and learn to control your spending habits.
Live within your means.
If I could teach one financial concept to everyone, this would be it. Living within your means is the most important financial concept there is – master this step, and you are on your way to financial prosperity. Get current on all your bills, emphasize savings, prepare for emergencies, avoid taking on debt, and invest when you can. That’s it. It’s not sexy, but it works.
Recognize the importance of cash flow.
Your income is important, but even more important is your cash flow. If you earn a million dollars in a year and spend it all, where does it get you? Nowhere. Were you able to save anything? Can you handle an emergency if it arises? You can more easily live on a lower salary if you keep your fixed expenses low. Eliminating your debts frees up additional cash flow which can be used for the more important things in life, such as buying a home, taking a vacation, planning for college, or retirement saving.
More Money is Not the Only Solution
Yes, it is true that having more money can solve some financial problems. If you are in debt and struggling, more money will help you clear the debt and get back on your feet. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, then a higher salary might help you finally get ahead of the curve, first saving a month of salary, then two, and so on. But by itself, more money is not the solution. You still need to reign in your expenses and live within your means, otherwise you will find yourself back where you started: harboring the belief that more money can fix your money problems.
The bottom line is this: if you spend more than you earn, you will never get out of debt and you will never be financially free.